The vast spacecraft pierced the asteroid belt. It drifted past ringed giants and frozen moons until it came to its destination. Hovering like a gas cloud in the depths of space, the ship’s lights blinked in silence.
In the control room, data ran up and down computer screens. Ignoring the array of bizarre symbols, the administrators surveyed the planet Ocean. It was a miserable desert of water, a great blue globe of swirling tides and wandering gales. Desolate though it looked to those alien eyes, the planet did contain life, lots of life. Much of it clung to rocks, headlands and peaks whose green scrub poked out of the wild surf.
Administrator One rubbed her egg-yolk yellow head to activate the veins beneath the skin. Purple threads began to criss-cross the surface, spreading like the cracks in a breaking ice sheet.
“So we decided last week that we would wipe out humanity,” she said. “It seems a shame.”
“It has to be done,” said Administrator Two. He was partly hidden behind a sheet of fine graphite, the point of his yellow head poking above it. “The species must be managed. It’s everywhere. There’s barely a scrap of rock on this paltry planet where the creatures haven’t built their nests.”
“Nevertheless,” said Administrator One, “extermination is a rather … extreme form of management.”
“We all agreed this in the meeting,” Administrator Two replied. “You were there. We voted on it.”
Administrator One released her tongue and licked her eyebrows. Administrator Two could not fail to get the message. Luckily, just at that moment, Administrator Three turned round from his console. There was a button in the centre that they would have described as red, if they had been able to differentiate colours.
“Shall we wipe out the chimpanzees and the bonobos too?” asked this new administrator. “I mean, the primates evolved into humans once. They might do it again.”
“How close are they?” asked Administrator One. She began lactating in fear.
“Very close,” replied Administrator Three. “They’re more or less the same thing, genetically speaking, although a lot less destructive.”
“Hmm,” said Administrator Two, as he read through the DNA evidence. “Hmm.”
As the alien considered the problem, he generated spools of thread from the pores in his fingers. The thread stuck where it met the strands from the other hand. They weaved together, merging in a knot of living tendrils as he twisted his wrists.
“I think we’ll be all right with the bonobos,” he said at last. “But we should exterminate the chimps, just to be on the safe side.”
“Rightaway, my equal,” said Administrator Three, and hit the button. Missiles containing species-specific viral agents were released towards the planet.
“Is it really necessary?” sobbed Administrator One as she mopped at the milk oozing from her armpits.
“It’s the only way,” said Administrator Two kindly. “The planet will be much nicer after they’ve gone, you’ll see. Remember too that the virus is quite painless. They will be annihilated without any fuss at all.”
“It’s all very humane,” added Administrator Three as he slipped out of his chair and went for a fungus break.
“I suppose you’re right,” said Administrator One. However, the tone of her voice betrayed her. Despite the calm assurance of her equals, deep in her cardiovascular system, it didn’t feel right to her at all.
Through the craft’s windows, she watched the missiles flare up on contact with the planet’s atmosphere.
(c) Alastair Savage, 2014